“Why Amazon first, and not iTunes? Because all the digital music that Amazon sells is unlocked, meaning that it can be shared limitlessly with friends. Music wants to be paid for, but, after that, it wants to be free.”—Nancy Franklin, The New Yorker, Dec 22
Spurred by excellent posts by Mike Lazerow and others I follow, I’m diving back into more long-form blogging to share and gain your insights.
A number of great bloggers have been putting together a compelling macro thread for what should and will lie ahead : Fred Wilson’s two recent posts Bits of Destruction , Putting the Band Back Together and Roger Ehrenberg’s post on the current inflection point got me thinking about the implications of the digital revolution and the issue of trust, the main currency and fuel of the digital economy.
Let me share some thoughts picked up in my former life in news photography. I started after college in the late 1990s with Sygma (now part of Bill Gates’ Corbis) and, for the most part, the business practices had not changed since the 1950s. Photographers shot « news » on analog film, sent the film back to their agencies to be processed, printed, captioned and sold to magazines around the world. The distributed nature of the business relied on trust between the parties involved: photographers trusted agencies to look after their interests and sell their work, magazines trusted agencies to find and edit the best material and big-named agencies trusted their partners to gainfully syndicate/distribute photographs worldwide.
Enter the inflection point of the digital revolution right as I joined and the entire industry would change top to bottom in less than 3 years!
The following analog to digital upheaval ensued:
- photographers had ready access to cheaper film scanners and then to hi-def digital cameras which meant digital transmissions as opposed to shipments
- stock archives were increasingly digitized and sold via websites, thus upending the traditional agency networked model
- photographer-entrepreneurs formed their own mini-agencies, figuring they could be their agents
- the price of digital cameras continually decreased as technical quality increased and more people became photographers, fueling the celebrity culture with non-stop coverage of Hollywood and many fender-benders
- Flickr and other photosharing sites distributed more photographs to more people than ever
- cameraphones gave another boost to digital photography and citizen-powered photo agencies started up
The result? Democratized and increased content production&distribution led to photographic volume overload and the maintained need for trusted parties to weed through and edit the best to showcase and sell to media outlets. In short, all parties in the photo business were looking for mediation and increased trust in the face of decentralized and de-humanized transactions.
For all the incessant and constant proclamations of digital and the web equating death to the middlemen, ponder how you lead your digital life and how often you seek referrals from trusted parties to complement a first wave of Googling. We’ve collectively put our trust in Google to provide the most relevant links to a search query, yet we know how Google is “gamed” through SEO.
Online trust mechanisms have been around (think ebay seller ratings, Amazon reviews, Tripadvisor, Yelp) but what most of us are looking for are ever easier ways to tap into the collective wisdom and contacts of those we trust around us. Let’s call it trusted crowdsourcing.
We’re looking to make search results, information gathering, etc… relevant within our social context and networks. Online social networks have enhanced our ability to go beyond the 1st generation of trust mechanisms and use trusted crowdsourcing to gather referrals and recommendations from family, colleagues, business + online acquaintances. We trust these referrals and recommendations based on the assigned social capital of the person who provides them.
Here are some examples of tools/services that help trusted crowdsourcing:
- Facebook is built around the idea. I’ve heard fellow users tell me they trust the Events mentioned on Facebook the most because they’re recommended/attended by friends. Beacon was a step in the right direction by associating our friends with the brands they like and trust.
- Glue re-invents social browsing “because even though we live in the age of networking, connecting with friends is still hard. »
“Nobody questions things in this country anymore. Everybody’s too fat and happy. Everybody’s got a cell phone that’ll make pancakes and rub their balls now.”—Classic ! Thanks, Alex -) The late great George Carlin (via alexandergordon)